This summer I had the most amazing experience in the Redwood Forest in California. It was a wellness retreat organized by some health coaches. What surprised me the most about the retreat is that there were no presentations or teaching times, per se. I don’t know what I expected exactly, but it certainly wasn’t that. I’ve been a church member and youth leader for years and have been on dozens of retreats, to be honest. But what we call a “retreat” is often filled with tons of stuff: speakers, games, small groups, activities, etc. Yes, we get away from our usual lives, but there’s hardly a chance to breathe sometimes.
This retreat was radically different. Here was a typical day’s itinerary:
To put it mildly, I was shocked. A retreat with no one up front lecturing? With no program to speak of? Why weren’t the health coaches offering us dietary advice? Or tips on better living? After my initial shock subsided, it was replaced with a feeling of relief and freedom. It was a true retreat from all of the usual demands on my time and mind.
I was given the gift of space & time to simply “be.” To think. To ponder. To contemplate the beauty of creation and my Creator. To consider my place in this world. To slow down. To read. To sleep.
I think the health coaches organizing this retreat must have figured out that it would be more powerful to allow us to experience what a healthy life might feel like than it would be for us to receive lectures about it. And it certainly was powerful. For me, the time away was a “reset” of sorts. A chance to get off the treadmill of busyness and reacquaint myself with God’s love on a profound level. I marveled at the simplicity and beauty of this reset and now that I’ve experienced it, I want more!
Here is my plan to continue with this “reset” mindset I have found. You may want to try it out, too, especially if you find yourself currently unsatisfied with life, or if you sense a disconnect between your day-to-day rhythms and your heart. In Matthew 11, Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Here are three simple thoughts on how to find that rest and reset right where you are.
The psalms and hymns lift up the beauty of God’s creation. Look at Psalm 8. Or think of “How great Thou art” and “Great is Thy faithfulness.” Creation points our hearts, souls, and minds to the wonder of our Creator. As we reacquaint ourselves with nature, it sharpens our senses and spirit to God’s creative work in the world and in our own lives.
We make time for meetings, calls, connections, and appointments. Let’s make space, also in our day, to just “be.” This can be part of our devotional time or something in addition to it. Don’t even feel necessarily like you need to pray or say something. Picture yourself sitting on God’s lap and simply let His love embrace you. You are His child. Just being is okay. There’s something comforting and encouraging about not putting demands on your time alone.
We have more screen time in our days than we realize. When my kids were little, I limited their video game and TV-watching time with the phrase “Let’s not watch life; let’s live it!” But somehow I’ve gotten into my screens more than I’ve realized—between working on a laptop and using my cell phone pretty much non-stop. One of the gifts of this retreat was the lack of screens. So, once home, I am going to pick a time, beyond meal time, to make sure to put my screen away (phone included). Powering it off will allow me to power myself on, in fresh ways.
Does this reset sound intriguing to you? Are you willing to give it a try? If you do it once, I bet you’ll want to do it again! Make your own retreat by getting outside, giving yourself the gift of time and space to just be, and unplugging from the virtual world. I’m certain you will find a new sense of wonder, joy, freedom, and rest, as you do so. And you don’t have to go to the Redwood Forest to experience it.